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Portland, OR
USA

I exist to help dads learn to communicate and engage with their young adult daughters.  I provide resources from my vast amounts of research and experience with dads and daughters, and this is the place where you'll find the tools you need to become the hero you've always wanted to be.

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Dadvice: Soften Your Tone

Michelle Watson

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I am hopeful by now that you, Dad, really know that I’m one of your biggest fans.  

To underscore that fact, I have a tagline on my website that truly captures my heart, which is simply this: Helping Dads Become Heroes.

You’ve heard me say time and again that in order to be a hero, you have to take action. Think:  Superman, Batman, Spiderman, Iron Man. Now think: You.

Truth be told, superheroes can’t hold a candle to you because you have the ability to take your superpowers and use them to touch your daughter’s heart and life in profound, forever ways. 

You as a superhero are the first man to love your daughter and that is your most incredible superpower!

I know that you want to see your daughter grow and bloom and soar. I believe your deepest desire is to mold and shape her in ways that hold her in good stead throughout her life.

Yet because you’re a mere mortal and not super human, your mask and your armor come off when you get home. That’s where things sometimes don’t always line up between your head and your heart. That’s where the emotional switch gets flipped on and buttons get pushed. That’s where you say things you later regret, leading to the need for making amends.

If I could offer one piece of advice to help you achieve your goal of being the best dialed-in dad you can be, I would say this:

Soften your tone.

Or to say it another way: Your daughter will hear you differently if the tone of your voice is more gentle and kind. In essence, your tone changes your tune.

I realize the word soft isn’t the most masculine of terms and yet if you want to see better results in the quality of your relationship with your daughter, trust me when I say it’s worth the work to hone this skill because your interactions will thrive as a result.

Over time I’ve come to discover, both from interacting with dads and daughters, that men don’t always realize how their intense their vocal tone actually is. In one felt swoop, those forceful words cut like a knife to the heart. To her heart.

Oftentimes as men you think you’re talking in a gentle tone to your daughters, but to them it sounds like a harsh command. They hear your words as an order being barked at them. And I know you don’t hear it that way, which then leaves you confused because your sons never seem to have a problem when you talk to them like that, right?

 
Though fathers sometimes say that their daughters are the ones who have the tone problem because of their big emotional reactive responses, I would suggest that change has to start with you.   If you stay soft, she will calm down…eventually.

Though fathers sometimes say that their daughters are the ones who have the tone problem because of their big emotional reactive responses, I would suggest that change has to start with you. If you stay soft, she will calm down…eventually.

 

So how do you activate this stance of softening your tone?

1. Give yourself a time out.
I suggest taking a break from the interaction that is synonymous with your age. I know that might sound crazy, but it works in the same way with adults as kids. If you’re 50, then you need 50 minutes after being frustrated or enraged to calm down. Decide here on the front end that you will discipline, correct, or instruct when you’re angry and emotionally activated. Walk away and come back later. That way there’s less chance of saying something you’ll regret. It’s always a good idea to wait until your emotional midbrain has returned to its normal state before engaging in a potentially intense interaction. 

2. Find another dad to be accountable to.
I continue to be aware that men are highly motivated when there is competition and/or camaraderie. So why not find another father who is working on softening his tone and then challenge each other to change the way you interact with your kids. Touch base at least once a month and encourage each other to stay the course.

3. Ask your daughter for periodic feedback.
Since your goal is to nurture her heart space, why not use her feedback as a template to gauge how you’re really doing. Let her know you’re working on softening your tone and then invite her to give you input on your progress. This will add yet another layer of accountability as you ask your daughter to weigh in.

I have yet to meet a father or a daughter who doesn’t want their relationship to be healthier and stronger. And I have yet to meet a father or a daughter who isn’t happier and more hopeful when their relationship is on track and in harmony. 

But if the bridge has been bombed out between the two of you due to this exact issue of heart hurts due to harsh responses, there’s no better time than the present to soften your tone and change the dance.

She’ll be glad you did. And so will you.

Dear Dad...What I Wish I'd Said to You Years Ago

Michelle Watson

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We’re just one week away from Father’s Day, and today I’m inviting you into my personal, vulnerable space by letting you read this heartfelt letter I wrote to my dad for Father’s Day a couple of years ago. And rest assured that much of what he’s done to invest in me over the years were things that I wasn’t necessarily thinking were significant at the time. That part came later. I trust this will encourage you dads to keep staying the course as you make forever deposits in your daughter’s life, choosing to believe that the day will come when she will look back and remember.

Dear Dad…
Sometimes the beauty of growing older means that things look different from this angle. I know I’ve thanked you for your consistent investment in my life many times over the years, but this year I want to highlight some things that maybe I’ve not fully appreciated until now.

Thank you…
…for choosing, along with mom, to let my birth happen. Even after finding out that you were pregnant with me before you were married, you took the high road and allowed for me to be born. People weren’t open about those things in 1960 and I am deeply grateful that you chose life.

Thank you…
…for letting me fall asleep on your chest, even as a newborn, because apparently it was one of the only places I could settle down.

Thank you…
…for getting on the floor to wrestle with me, lifting me “high in the sky,” and actually enjoying our time together while we laughed and played even after you’d had a long day at work.

Thank you…
…for taking me to the park and hiding coins in the bark dust, letting me believe that it all magically appeared out of nowhere, which made me feel like the richest girl on the block (now that I think about it, I still am).

Thank you…
…for making up bedtime stories while we girls placed an imaginary “thinking cap” on the top of your head, an enchanted hat by which the all-time best stories were birthed from you because you loved seeing your girls giggle, imagine, and dream.

Thank you…
…for going the extra mile to build unique and spectacular things that made your daughter’s childhood a bit better---like putting wheels on a milk crate and attaching handlebars to the top so we had an incredible, one-of-a-kind scooter that was the envy of the neighborhood to putting a light bulb inside our kitchen cupboard which transformed it into the most fantastic fort that ever existed.

Thank you…
…for years of courageously accepting your role as the infamous “cutter-of-my-bangs.” And for the record, I do forgive you for the innumerable times that the final result turned out less than we’d hoped for due to my cowlick. My fifth grade school photo, however, doesn’t feel the same way.

Thank you…
…for making it a priority to lead our annual all-day trek to find the perfect Christmas tree two hours away while creating a fun tradition of singing songs at the top of our lungs in the car, songs that still make Christmas special when I hear them. (“I saw mommy kissing Santa Claus” and “All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth” were two of our greatest hits, don’t you think?)

 
 

Thank you…
…for creating memories with us girls that were 180 degrees different from what your dad did with you (or more accurately, didn’t do with you), making a concerted effort to walk in the opposite direction of the hand you were dealt while investing time and energy to be a dialed-in dad.

Thank you…
…for taking me on my first date to the Rheinlander restaurant when I was 16 and making me wait in the car until you came around and opened the door, telling me that you wanted me to never settle for a guy who didn’t do the same.

Thank you…
…for recusing me on the freeway when my car broke down and all I could do was cry, never lecturing me or making me feel embarrassed for not being more courageous, strong or mature.

Thank you…
…for wiping my tears and rescuing me when my heart was broken down after a breakup…or two…or three…and reminding me that any guy who’d have the privilege of dating me would be the lucky one.

Thank you…
…for repairing every broken thing inside and outside my house that has ever needed your inventive, inexpensive, impressive, and ingenious fixes.

Thank you…
…for taking me to Nordstrom for the past 25+ years at Christmastime where together we’ve smelled more scents than we could ever count while creating one of the best traditions ever: Perfume Day! Every bottle that you’ve bought me is a fragrant reminder of your love for me, a love that sacrificially enjoys spoiling me in a way that says I’m valued in a big, big way.

Thank you…
…for never giving up on me and for your ongoing pursuit of a relationship with me that’s been consistent throughout my entire life, even with all my emotional up’s and down’s and even during times where we’ve bonked heads and disagreed, always showing me that a dad’s love lasts through it all.

Dad, I know that words can’t truly express how much I love you, but from the depths of my heart I want you to know that you mean the world to me! And in case I don’t tell you enough, just remember again today how grateful I am for every single deposit you’ve made in my life through the years, big and small.

Happy Fathers Day, Dad!

How God Becomes Your Father (Guest Blog by Ed McGlasson)

Michelle Watson

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Today we have the privilege of hearing from my friend, Ed McGlasson, a former NFL lineman who played with the Giants, the Jets, and the Rams. If you’ve never had your earthly father talk to you about how much you’re loved by your Heavenly Father, Ed is here to speak into your life as a surrogate dad, of sorts. Read on as he unpacks solid biblical truth that has the potential to change your life. ~ Michelle

How many of you have ever said, “I’ll never do to my kids what my dad did to me!”?

Most of us have said that at one point or another. These are natural reactions to hurt we’ve received, even if we had a great dad. But what about those of us who didn’t have a present, loving father? What about those who had an emotionally distant father, an absent father, or an abusive father?

Without the model of a present, loving father, boys grow up to become discouraged or despondent husbands and fathers. Some feel it’s just easier to leave, so that their kids don’t suffer from their mistakes. Unfortunately, this only perpetuates the broken cycle of fatherlessness that initiated their feelings of unworthiness in the first place.

The issue of fatherlessness is nothing new. While the number of fatherless children today continues to grow at an alarming rate, the issue was present all the way back in the Old Testament of the bible. The prophet Jeremiah wrote in the book of Lamentations:

“Orphans we are, not a father in sight, and our mothers no better than widows.” (Lam 5:3 MSG)

Jesus came to change this orphan song. He said: “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.” (John 14:18) 

He was speaking to each and every one of us born without a present, loving father in our lives.

When young boys are raised in a home without a present, loving father, they suffer. Boys tend to ask the question, “Who am I?” and “Am I good enough?” Without another man present to answer this question for them, they spend their life trying to find their identity and prove their worth through their exploits, careers, and other accomplishments. While most of these young boys will grow up to be fathers themselves, they often lack the tools necessary to provide their children with a present, loving father—even if that is their very heart’s desire.

So what is God’s answer to fatherlessness? Is it too late for men in America to rise up and become the men, fathers, and leaders they didn’t have themselves? 

The book of Malachi gives us a clue as to how God plans to heal this issue of fatherlessness:  

 
“Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes. And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction.” ( Malachi 4:5-6)

“Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes. And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction.” (Malachi 4:5-6)

 

God has a plan to not only heal the issue of fatherlessness, but to heal the wounds you personally have suffered without a present, loving father in your life: your father wounds. He has a plan to heal your family, your community, and yes—the whole world.

God’s plan is two-fold. He plans to turn the hearts of fathers back to children. And he plans to turn the hearts of children back to their fathers.

But first, in order to do this, God’s plan is to become your father.

“…and I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty.” (2 Corinthians 6:18 ESV)

How does God the Father become your Father? God the Father adopts you into His family when you put your hope and trust in His Son, Jesus Christ, and receive His free gift of forgiveness. When this happens, it changes how you father your children, because it changes how you’ve been fathered.

God’s plan isn’t just to change you into a great father. He wants you to have a great Father yourself. It is through this relationship and blessing from your new heavenly Father that you receive the blessing you need to pass on to your children.

When you receive the Blessing of the Father for yourself, God will begin to turn your heart back to your children. This process happens when you discover how much God the Father loves you, and the great lengths to which He’s gone to be your Father.

These truths can be further realized through daily reading and meditation upon God’s Word. Knowing that God has blessed you to be the father to your children—and has given you everything you need to be their father—empowers you, and turns your heart to stay and be the present, loving father that He has called you to be.

If God’s plan all along was to turn your heart back to your children, then He also has a plan to empower you to be the father your kids need you to be. It is never too late to become that father!

Many young children live in bitterness, and shut down in their relationships because of wounds they’ve received from their fathers. This is not a reason for you to shut down as well; this is an opportunity for you to take the first step in love and forgiveness even if your kids have hurt you.

Here are two questions you can ask your kids that will help begin the healing process of turning their hearts back to you:

  • Can you help me understand how I’ve hurt you so that I can ask for forgiveness?

  • Can you help me understand what you need from me as your dad right now?

If you have the courage to ask those questions, you have taken a gigantic step in restoring your relationship with your kids. Let your heart turns back towards our children so your children’s hearts will turn back to you.

It’s never too late to be the father your kids need you to be, and to have the Father you’ve always wanted. Remember, the Father loves you and sent His Son to let you know!

______

Ed McGlasson is a pastor, best-selling author, renowned conference and corporate event speaker, and a five-year veteran in the National Football League. He is the author of the best-selling book titled, The Difference A Father Makes, as well as Be Loved and The Father You’ve Always Wanted, with a big vision to reach hurting families with the love and the blessing of God as their Father through his testimony and life-changing message. You can read more about him at blessingofthefather.com.

When Your Daughter Doesn't Get a Ring by Spring

Michelle Watson

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I don't know if it's something in the air lately or if it's just the typical awakening that happens after a long winter, but suffice it to say that I’ve had more talks recently with women about their singleness than I’ve had in the entire past year combined!

Maybe it’s tied to the colorful spring blossoms magically popping up from the ground that are activating the not-far-from-the-surface desire in women to see love blossom for them in a similar way. All I know is that regardless of the impetus, there are a lot of women with aching hearts due to feeling alone now that spring has sprung.

If you could sit where I sit, you would see and hear passionate women with incredible gifts and amazing dreams who don’t feel fully alive or empowered to reach toward those dreams due to the fact that they are single. You heard me right; there are myriads of women who are blocked and stuck and stalled out in their life pursuits all because they don’t have guy pursuits in the works.

Just this past week an adorable 16-year old, with tears streaming down her cheeks, told me about her struggle with not having a boyfriend while most of her friends are coupled, leaving her to conclude that she’s not thin enough to attract a guy. In another conversation, a 33-year old successful career woman with current job promotion potential expressed her hypothesis that there must be some looming deficits that keeps men from pursuing her. She shared how hard it is when those first dates repeatedly fail to turn into second dates, leading her to believe she’s undesirable and not worth the effort.

You see, we as women most often conclude that there is something lacking in us when we’re not the one being chosen. Rarely do we think there’s something wrong with the guy.

I know too many women--from their teens on up--who are less than enthusiastic about the incredible opportunities directly in front of them and instead are fixated on the one thing they don't have: a boyfriend. And it really doesn’t help when the questions keep coming by well-meaning inquirers that focus primarily on our dating lives as opposed to other aspects of our existence.

Truth be told, it’s never easy to repeatedly report that there’s not much happening in the romance department.

To make matters worse (and I speak from years of experience on this one), although we love attending wedding showers for our girlfriends and are honored to stand next to them as a bridesmaid when they enter into holy matrimony, there’s a bittersweet reality that accompanies these shindigs.

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As single women we always secretly wonder if our forever soul mate might be waiting for us at these events, especially at weddings. Maybe he’ll be standing on the groom’s side of the platform and we’ll unintentionally exchange glances, only then to have the matchup seem obvious as we exit, walking down the aisle, arm in arm (because the bride made sure that we were paired up). Or we dream about Mr. Right possibly being at the reception where we’ll inadvertently bump into each other on the dance floor and sparks will instantaneously fly. And on it goes.

We can’t help but wonder if our forever story is waiting to be written at these celebrations. Try as we might not to think ahead, the whole idea of longing for a guy to notice us and choose us so that our fairy tale can begin seems to be constantly present (even though we rarely admit it publicly). Dreaming and wishing and hoping is half the fun…until nothing happens…again.

Someone told me this week that she and her mom agree that I’m the most vibrant single woman they know. As nice as that was to hear, my immediate thought was: Why aren’t there more women who are thriving in their singleness?

Dads, I believe you are more of a solution to the problem than you may realize.

Way too many women are inadvertently believing the lie that they’re not a success unless they’re dating, engaged, or married. That message is being perpetuated…everywhere…and it needs to stop.

Your input into your daughter’s life has the power to carry a counter cultural message---which is that she has vibrancy and purpose beyond her marital status.

Here’s what your single daughter needs to hear from you…today:

  1. She needs to learn what guys think--particularly when it comes to romance. You remember what it was like at the age where your daughter is right now. Tell her where your head was at, especially the part where you were distracted or lazy, selfish or unmotivated to pursue a girl because you knew the work it would take to commit and were focused on figuring out your own life. Let her know it's not something wrong with her that has guys doing what they do.

  2. She needs you to tell her that she’s beautiful and competent, qualified, and “enough” just the way she is, right where she’s at, whether or not there’s a boyfriend in the picture. Your daughter needs more encouragement, more support, and more validation from you in extra measure if she’s single. And even if she’s dating someone or already married, she still will thrive when hearing that you believe in her, are proud of her, and that you love her fully and completely (as a work in progress, just like you).

  3. She needs to hear that even if she never gets married, you are not disappointed in her and are fully proud of her. Focus on highlighting what she is doing, not what she isn’t. And I don’t know why it is, but a lot of women believe that their parents will be happier if we have a husband and give them grandchildren. So when we feel we’ve failed to make our parents happy or proud of us in those areas (even if it’s never been communicated directly), we feel like a failure. The reality is that it’s our “stuff.” But that’s why fathers are so important when it comes to communicating their affirmation of their daughters at every age regardless of marital status.

So what do you say, dads…will you join me in spreading this message to your girls?

Let's join together in emboldening single women to enthusiastically live their lives to the fullest while encouraging them to focus on using their unique gifts to make a difference in the world.

Let's stop asking mostly about their love lives and instead spend more time asking about the latest opportunities they’re embracing and inquire about the new things they’re learning.

Let's deepen our conversations to celebrate and highlight that which single women have to offer their communities rather than carelessly and needlessly directing the conversation to the one area where she may feel less confident or successful.

Let’s celebrate all women, not just those who are dating or married. All of us together have the power to change the way we interact and today is the day to broaden our focus so we’re talking about all things life-breathing, not just about boys and dating.

Dads, before I close, here’s one practical idea for investing in your single daughters in a creative, not-for-any-specific-occasion way:

What if you bought a quality ring for your daughter just to let her know she’s valuable…to you. Then every time she looks at it she will be reminded that you love her and that she’s a treasure.

Can you picture it? Single women across the nation showing off the rings they got this spring…from their dads!

P.S. Just in case your daughter might need a little spiritual encouragement, here is one of my favorite passages because it’s all about passionately embracing life as a single woman:

Sing, barren woman, you who never bore a child;
burst into song, shout for joy…enlarge the place of your tent,
stretch your tent curtains wide, lengthen your cords, strengthen your stakes.
For you will spread out to the right and to the left;
…Do not be afraid; you will not be put to shame.
Do not fear disgrace; you will not be humiliated…
For your Maker is your bridegroom---the Lord Almighty is his name!

Isaiah 54: 1-5

I Don't Speak Feelings (Guest Blog by Dr. Joe Martin)

Michelle Watson

Here’s a fun backstory to today’s guest blog: After I recently wrote my Dad-Daughter Friday blog titled,  I Don’t Speak ‘Car,’  the first person to respond was my friend, Dr. Joe Martin, who said,  “ Now we need to do one written to fathers to teach us how to speak 'feelings'.”   That’s when I knew he was the perfect person address this issue as a dad to a teenage daughter who understands the unique challenges of speaking her emotional language.  Enjoy!    ~Michelle

Here’s a fun backstory to today’s guest blog: After I recently wrote my Dad-Daughter Friday blog titled, I Don’t Speak ‘Car,’ the first person to respond was my friend, Dr. Joe Martin, who said, Now we need to do one written to fathers to teach us how to speak 'feelings'.” That’s when I knew he was the perfect person address this issue as a dad to a teenage daughter who understands the unique challenges of speaking her emotional language. Enjoy!
~Michelle

How would you like to take a 5-day cruise to the Bahamas with your wife, or the woman of your dreams, watch the sunset off the balcony of your cruise suite; go snorkeling together, hold hands walking on the beach, get massages, go dancing, sing Karaoke together, and sip drinks with tiny umbrellas in them? Sounds good, right?

But how would you like to do all those things and have your teenage daughter tag along with you? What you talk'in about Willis? (in my best Gary Coleman voice)  

That's right! My beautiful wife and I decided to take my precocious, 16-year old daughter on a cruise to the Bahamas for Spring Break. What could possibly go wrong living in the confines of a cabin with two women, one bed, one sofa, and one bathroom?!

Let's just say, it was a vacation to remember! (or forget - depending on if you're a glass half-empty-half-full kind of guy).

My friend, Dr. Michelle Watson, wrote a wonderful article a couple of months ago about women not being able to "speak car,” which she defined as a challenge she’s experienced in not always being able to communicate in ways that men understand. I absolutely and thoroughly enjoyed it and learned a lot. 

However, after spending almost a week in a cabin and on a boat with two women, let's just say, Dr. Michelle needs to write another article, but this time to women to educate them on the way that men often struggle to relate to them, calling it, "I don't speak feelings."

Here are just a few lessons I learned from my five days on a cruise ship with my wife and daughter, drenched in estrogen. (Play at your own risk if you choose to let your daughter or wife read this!)

Lesson #1: Apathy: "If you don't ask about it, that means you must not care."


I didn't know that my inability to ask 21 questions reflects my insensitivity to the "isn't it obvious" needs of a woman. I can't tell you how many times I heard the following questions (and you can fill in the blank with whatever you choose): 

"Sweetie, aren't you're going to _________?"  
"Daddy, why didn't you do __________?"
"Baby, how could you forget to do _________?"
"Daddy, you're not going to ask me about _________?"

 
I didn't know that not knowing what a woman wants and thinks without her telling us means that we either  don't care, don't really want to go,  or  we’d rather be doing something else.  But it definitely can't mean “ we didn't know."

I didn't know that not knowing what a woman wants and thinks without her telling us means that we either don't care, don't really want to go, or we’d rather be doing something else. But it definitely can't mean “we didn't know."


 

Lesson #2: Insensitive: "If you question my mistake, then you're not being loving."

My daughter lost one of our bags that contained most of my wife's valuables. Could you imagine how upset my wife was; and she was sure to let my daughter know about it. But during the entire time, I didn't say a word; I just sat back an observed.  

I must admit, my wife handled the situation like a pro (much better than I would have). But as soon as my daughter tried to make an excuse and shift the responsibility to my wife (Can you believe that?), before I could get even three words out, my daughter burst into tears claiming I was bashing her, criticizing her, and being insensitive to her feelings. And I didn't even finish my thought! 

I didn't know that a man should refrain from teaching, questioning, or correcting a woman when she's feeling bad about doing something wrong or refusing to accept responsibility for it.

#3: Selfishness: "If you don't respond to my requests quickly, then you must only care about yourself."

On the cruise, I felt like I was part of the ship staff. Because I guess it was agreed upon, without my knowledge before the trip, that I would be the personal valet for my wife and daughter. I would be on-call 24 hours a day to get all the drinks, grab all the towels, and get all the midnight snacks whenever requested.  

Of course, to survive the trip, and still have a bed to sleep in, I did everything without complaint. However, my teenage daughter thought my delays were my personal rejection of her, and she felt like I didn't care about attending to her needs as much as I did her mom's.  

Coincidentally, I wore a Fitbit during the cruise, so I surpassed at least 10,000 steps every day during our time on the ship. How is that even possible? I was running so many errands on the cruise that I seriously thought about asking the crew for a uniform and filling out a W-2 form!

 
I didn't know that when you're in the company of two women and you're a dude, you're supposed to be ready to respond to their beck and call as they continue to do what they want to do, not what you want to do; otherwise, you're being selfish.

I didn't know that when you're in the company of two women and you're a dude, you're supposed to be ready to respond to their beck and call as they continue to do what they want to do, not what you want to do; otherwise, you're being selfish.


 

Lesson #4: Anger: "If you take time away to be away from me, you must be mad at me, someone, or something."

I know most people go on vacation to do stuff, go a lot of places, and try different things. However, the perfect vacation for me is me doing absolutely NOTHING and reading a good book and sleeping - disconnected from the world. Boring, yes, I know, but definitely relaxing to me.   

However, I must qualify this statement, I intentionally tried to do almost everything that my family requested (with joy), from snorkeling, working out, acupuncture (yes, that's right), to singing karaoke, which my loving family forced me to do; then they secretly videoed me impersonating Prince and proceeded to post it on Facebook. I'm still getting text messages and weird stares about that.  

However, as soon as I decided to find a hide-a-way to go read, drink, and relax, I received more questions than a perp on Law and Order:

"Are you okay?"
"Are you upset about something?"
"What's wrong with you?"
"Where did you go?"
"Why are you hiding from us?"


Who knew "going away" meant you're getting angry? I thought it just meant getting away.

I'm sure there were other lessons I missed. And for the most part, I still managed to enjoy the vacation, spend some time with my wife, and even bond with my daughter (we had a dress-up dinner date without mom - priceless), but the trip felt more like boot camp than a vacation.

All I can say is, as soon as Dr. Michelle publishes her book for men on "speaking feelings," I'm purchasing the first copy. Trust me, it's destined to be a best seller.  
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Dr. Joe Martin is an award-winning international speaker, author, and educator who has authored nine books. He is also the host of the #1 radio podcast on iTunes for Christian Men called Real Men Connect and heralds from Chattanooga, TN where he lives with his wife and teenage daughter. You can connect with him at www.realmenconnect.com.

Blind Spots

Michelle Watson

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We’ve all heard the term “blind spot” when it comes to driving. And just to make sure we’re all in the same lane, here’s how the dictionary defines it: “an area where a person's view is obstructed.”

And though this term refers to our line of sight when driving a car, it also serves as a clever metaphor for life beyond the wheel. Why is that, you ask? Because every one of us is vulnerable to mishaps or accidents in those areas where our view is less than clear.

Relating this to dads, have you ever wondered how your personal blind spots might keep you from seeing the ways that your “driving” is impacting your daughter? [a.k.a. the way you steer her or influence her by your responses and choices]. Truth be told: the way you “drive” when she’s along for the ride impacts every part of her life. Stated otherwise, your blind spots have the potential to harm her or even put her in danger.

But let’s be honest, sometimes it can be hard to come out from under the illusion that we’re expert drivers because then it would require admitting that maybe we don’t have things under control or that we can’t see everything plainly. And to make matters worse, what happens when someone points out something we’ve missed or done wrong when we’re the one at the wheel.

  • That’s usually when the walls of defensiveness go up. 

  • That’s usually when anger and blame are set into motion. 

  • That’s usually when conflict erupts. 

Bottom line: Every move we make impacts those with us in the car when we’re “driving.” Even more, when our view is obstructed and we don’t see how the things we’re doing negatively impact those around us, it’s in those times that there is greater potential for unintended or catastrophic injury to those we love. 

 
You’ve no doubt seen these words inscribed on your rear view mirror:   Objects in mirror are closer than they appear.    How true this is when it comes to your relationship with your daughter. Whether she is in the car [of life] with you or in a car following behind yours, she is closely watching and listening and taking note.

You’ve no doubt seen these words inscribed on your rear view mirror: Objects in mirror are closer than they appear.

How true this is when it comes to your relationship with your daughter. Whether she is in the car [of life] with you or in a car following behind yours, she is closely watching and listening and taking note.

 

That’s 24/7 driver’s education at it’s best…or worst.

That said, here are three common blind spots that dads can have with their daughters:

1. Speaking with harshness. Sometimes men are unaware that their strong masculine voices sound harsh, mean, or angry to their girls. Additionally, they may hear themselves as sounding less intense than their daughters do, even justifying their tone of voice when they feel the situation calls for a certain level of intensity. And though our individual preferences regarding volume levels could be described as a Mars-Venus thing (men are from Mars, women are from Venus), if you want to connect with your daughter’s heart, you’ll have to take it down a few notches. Because when a daughter experiences her dad as overpowering and domineering, she interprets his commanding stance as unloving and uncaring, which makes her feel dishonored and rejected. That is when she’ll more readily go into attack mode and retaliate in like kind or put walls up to defend and self-protect. 

Dad, softening your tone will touch that deep place in her heart that longs for and needs your approval and affirmation. 

2. Inattentive listening. I’ve heard a lot of daughters say that their dads sometimes seem more interested in their own work, sports, or ministries than in them. And this conclusion tends to be based on watching where their dads spend the bulk of their time, attention, and money, particularly when they see them have energy to invest elsewhere. Then add in the fact that the majority of men struggle to sustain interest during long conversations (especially if there’s accompanying emotion), often due to having used up the bulk of their words and listening skills during the day, and there’s typically very little margin upon coming home for attending to a talkative daughter who has a need to process life. 

But God has given us two ears and one mouth to remind us to listen twice as much as we talk, and when you listen wholeheartedly, you let your daughter know that she’s worth being heard.

But God has given us two ears and one mouth to remind us to listen twice as much as we talk, and when you listen wholeheartedly, you let your daughter know that she’s worth being heard.

3. Authoritarian Stance. We’ve all heard it said that “rules without relationship equals rebellion.” So when rules are set in place without there first being a solid foundation of relational connection (which, for dads and daughters includes spending time together, listening to each other, playing together, attending events that she’s involved in, celebrating victories and milestones, doing projects together, working alongside each other, volunteering together, etc.), a daughter can easily conclude that her dad loves her less for who she is and more because she performs right or acts perfectly. 

Spending regular, consistent face-to-face time with your daughter communicates that you care more about winning her heart than being the rule enforcer. 

Dad, if you’re ready to decrease the potential for blind spots, here’s your action steps:

The next time you get in your car and see the eight familiar words on your side mirror, Objects in mirror are closer than they appear, let them prompt you to consider how your “driving” on that particular day is impacting your daughter. 

Better yet, why not ask her if there’s one area [a blind spot] where you could do better in making her feel loved and protected and safe. 

After all, there’s no better time than the present to improve your driving record, right? Go dads! 

Dad, Tell Her Your Story

Michelle Watson

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In the words of Dr. Brene Brown, “When we deny our stories, they define us, but when we own our stories, we get to write a brave new ending…with courage that starts with letting ourselves be seen.”

Dad, there is power in letting yourself be seen and known by your daughter as you tell her stories from your life.
 

By opening up with her, it lets her know that you’re human, that you’ve made mistakes (and continue to make them), that you’re authentic and real and “normal” (whatever that means!).

This basically translates to moving from lecturing and teaching mode to an “I’m letting you know more about me” mode. 

The telling of your story can also include lessons you’ve learned along the way, which is a strategic way to form a bond between you as the speaker and your daughter as the listener. By taking off your mask (the one that is self protective and keeps people from really knowing you), you are letting her know who you really are--flaws and all.

Though I’m not saying that your daughter should be your confidant and therapist, I am saying that she can be a catalyst to you choosing to open up your heart and your emotions out of love for her. This will be a gift to her…and yourself. 

To provide confirming evidence for what I’m saying, here’s a positive story-telling experience between me and my dad, Jim:

 

If my dad is anything like you, you probably don’t think that your life is all that interesting. My dad has told me on more than one occasion that because he doesn’t find his life story all that interesting, he’s never thought to share much of it with me…until the last few years, that is

I have the best memory from about 15 years ago when the movie Chicago first came out. When this movie showed up in theaters, I wanted to see it, but I can assure you that this is not the kind of movie my dad goes to…ever! He’s a Sci-fi-adventure-shoot-‘em-up movie watcher. But because my mom was out of town that weekend, my dad took me my sister Liz to the theater, which prompted our idea to make it a “Chicago themed night.” After the movie we ate dinner at Chicago Pizza, and it was there that my dad told us stories of growing up in Chicago. 

He told us about the extreme poverty he grew up with and about his alcoholic dad, then he shared more about what it was like to have three different last names among the seven kids, followed with details of how he worked from the time he was six years old helping his older brothers with their paper routes. Then he told us the story of asking a neighbor boy’s dad to help him build a shoe shine box, and although he was only ten years old and very shy, he had the guts to sneak into a dozen different bars on Vincennes Avenue to shine shoes “under the table” (literally and figuratively!). He made great money as he “bar-hopped,” due in large part to the generosity of wealthy Mr. Lieberman, who would pay five dollars a pop for a job well done. But eventually my dad would be discovered and then get kicked out, only to head to the next bar down the street.  

I learned more about my dad’s childhood that night than ever before, and my sister and I absolutely loved It! And it stands out as one of my favorite nights ever with my dad.

I can honestly say that I’m richer for it because this is part of my history as well. The reality is that these stories would be lost forever if they weren’t passed down from my dad to us girls since they’re not written down anywhere. It’s like he’s a walking history book about his family and life in the 1930’s, 40’s, and 50’s.

The other benefit is that the stories my dad chooses to tell about his life give me more understanding, empathy, even grace, for who he is now as they help me know him better.
They lead me to have more compassion in those times when I get irked at him because then I recall what he went through, particularly the lack of support, encouragement, money, confidence, or even attentive parents.

Summing up: The more real that my dad is with me, the more real he becomes to me. And I then see him through a reality lens where he’s human (not a superhero), which helps me to accept his limitations because I understand his backstory.

 
 
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If you’re ready to share more of your life story with your daughter, I suggest three ways to go about doing it.

OPTION 1: If you want the fast-get-to-the-point version, here it is: 

  1. Tell her what happened. (at a certain age or in a specific place)

  2. Tell her what you learned. (include positive learning experiences, as well as lessons learned the hard way)

  3. Invite her to ask questions. (choose to be honest and open in ways that are age-appropriate and that stretch you to grow in vulnerability)

OPTION 2: If you want to share something new that you haven’t told her before, start with:

  1. One positive/happy story: (about vacations, jobs, adventures, educational or athletic experiences, volunteer opportunities, etc.)

  2. One accomplishment/exploit: (achievements or awards, risks you’ve taken, feats of strength, endurance ventures, goals achieved, etc.)

  3. One unwise/stupid decision: (such as a physical, financial, or relational choice that didn’t go the way you had thought, planned or hoped it would.)

Now here’s a time when me and my dad had a less than positive story-telling experience:

 

I still remember the time about 20 years ago when I randomly asked my dad if he remembered how old he was when he first had sex. I hadn’t ever thought to ask the question prior to that moment when the question popped into my head, so I asked it. My dad’s intense response completely caught me off guard, and had I known the question would be so offensive to him, tucked inside with ‘no trespassing’ sign on it, I never would have asked it. 

In response, my dad loudly asserted, “Michelle, why would you ask such a question?!! 

Clearly I had crossed an invisible line, one that left me feeling like I’d committed the unpardonable sin by asking it. But I honestly had no idea this theme would turn out to be a land mine issue for him. So the only response I could muster was simply this, “Dad, I asked the question because I wanted to know more about your life. That’s all...honest.”

Maybe you can relate to my dad in not wanting to open the internal vault of your life to your daughter

Fast forward to more recently when my dad shared his thoughts about his struggle to be transparent with me: “Michelle, sometimes when you’ve asked me questions, I guess the hardest part is that I haven't always told you everything. It’s not that I don’t tell you a lot, but there are things that are way too personal or embarrassing that I wouldn't have even told my mother, let alone my daughter. These are actions I've been ashamed of and choices that were absolutely wrong and that I should have been in jail for, but all of this shows the amazing redemption God offers each of us, and especially me, in changing a life that was going nowhere.”

It was extremely helpful for me to hear these words because I didn’t know what I didn’t know. But my dad knew what he hadn’t told me and that was where things got tricky. And even though I assured him that I wouldn’t judge him, affirming that I simply wanted to know more of his real life story, I discovered that we were on different pages and I had to meet him at the place where he was comfortable sharing since it was his story to tell. 

 
 
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OPTION 3: If you’re ready to be challenged to go into more depth with telling your story, here is another model you can use. And though this will take more time and effort on the front end, it will guide you through this process. You can prepare by writing out the story before your dad-daughter date or you can create a list of bullet point list so that you have an overview when you get together. 

Here is a detailed, yet organized way to share more of your story:

1. Tell about your life chronologically: One year at a time.

Tell one thing from each age of your life…as many as you can think of. And if your daughter has questions, let her “ask away,” as my dad has invited me to do.

2. Tell about your life seasonally: One occasion at a time. 
My dad would often tell me stories that corresponded with the current time of year that we were in, whether it was a holiday memory or a weather-related story or about traditions with food at that certain time of year, etc.

3. Tell about your life experientially: One topic at a time. 
For this one you can think in broad topical categories, ranging from your family of origin and what it was like to be in your family to education, job, sports, friends, girlfriends, dating, adventures, risks, etc. The list is endless.

4. Tell about your life spiritually: One theme at a time.
Let her hear about significant times you’ve had in your relationship with God. Talk about lessons you're learning spiritually and about parts of the Bible that are particularly meaningful to you. Be honest about questions or doubts you’ve had in the past, or even now. Tell her about any momentous retreat, camp, or conference experiences you’ve had. And share about music that’s impacted you, and/or any other times you’ve connected to God through your senses or nature.

5. Tell about your life relationally: One person at a time.
As you tell her about various people who have influenced you throughout your life, this is not only a way of honoring those people, but you will be positively impacted by recalling the influence and impact of mentors, coaches, pastors, teachers, relatives, and on it goes. Share what they’ve taught you and why those lessons had value to you then…and now. 

I started this blog with a quote from Brene Brown and it seems only fitting to end with another of her wise statements: “Authenticity is not something we have or don’t have. It’s a practice---a conscious choice of how we want to live. Authenticity is a collection of choices that we have to make every day. It’s about the choice to show up and be real. The choice to be honest. The choice to let our true selves be seen.”

Dad, I trust that you’ll take a step this week to let your true self be seen by telling your daughter one thing about your life that you’ve never told her before.Just watch how she responds.

Let the story telling begin!

Defining Moments: The Valentines Month Challenge (Guest Blog by Jason Waugh)

Michelle Watson

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Today I'm excited to share this guest blog with you from a courageous dad who just “kicked it up a notch” this past month. Jason Waugh is one of my Dad-Daughter Friday blog readers and when he emailed me to share his story a couple of weeks ago, I knew that you all needed to hear it too. Enjoy! 

I believe that every day there are ‘defining moments.’ And if we are paying attention, they provide information that we can use to create memorable experiences. 

At 3:00 a.m. on February 1, 2019, Dr. Michelle Watson’s recurring Dad-Daughter Friday Blog arrived in my email inbox and was that ‘defining moment’ day for me. The subject line of the blog was, Dad, Here’s Your Valentine’s Month Challenge. 

You may be asking why her blog post was a ‘defining moment’ for me. Let me tell you. 

My wife and I are separated and I have been out of our home for 19 months. We have three amazing daughters, ages 12, 10 and almost 9. Candidly, I have lived in fear for the past 19 months that the relationship I so desperately want with my girls will never reach its full potential because of some recent choices I have made. 

Despite being out of our home for a year and a half, my wife and I both feel that I am now a more engaged father. My previous workaholic behavior that resulted in neglect at home had also led to a tendency to take for granted the work my wife did in taking care of our home and family. Some of the changes in me are due to the circumstances that come from parenting individually when they are with me, but the main motivator is my desire to be more present and engaged than I ever was before

My hope is that my efforts will result in the closeness I want so that my girls know, without question, that they are treasured by me.  

The challenge that Dr. Watson issued was for us as dads to commit to communicating love to our daughters every day in February. I instantly decided to tell Bella, Rian and Gabby one thing that is unique to them, one thing that I adore, admire, or respect about them, and/or one thing that I specifically appreciate about them… every single day for an entire month.

Simple in form, but as the days passed, the challenge for me was surprisingly difficult to not repeat myself as I sought to acknowledge something unique to each of them.

 
Fueled by the fear of failure and by my belief that if I don’t complete this challenge it will result in what I fear the most…  that my daughters won’t have the reassurance that they are unconditionally loved from the most important man in their life.

Fueled by the fear of failure and by my belief that if I don’t complete this challenge it will result in what I fear the most…that my daughters won’t have the reassurance that they are unconditionally loved from the most important man in their life.

 

While disappointed that I was successful just 27 out of 28 days, I am haunted by February 13th as the one day that escaped me where I failed to do something special for each one of them. But I must say that I am pleased with my daughter’s responses overall! On the 28th day, after 27 days of individual video messages, text messages and conversations, I shared with them the challenge that I’d been doing and was curious as to their reaction. 

Quite frankly, more days passed with no response than a reaction, which, if I am being honest, disappointed me. However, when I began to feel that way, I reminded myself why I had accepted the challenge in the first place, and it wasn’t to solicit a response; it was so they each would know how much I love and value them. 

Ultimately, my hope is they will develop an expectation that this is how a man should talk to them and treat them as they navigate their teen years through adulthood. 

Still, I was interested in knowing what my daily affirmations meant to them. My two youngest were very cute and said, “I loved them…I woke up every day to your message and it made me feel good.” My oldest said, “nice,” which was initially deflating until she said, “it was nothing I hadn’t heard before.” As I reflected on that statement, a sense of confidence washed over me that I have been more consistent than I thought in verbalizing and showing my three gifts how special they are to me. 

So, Dr. Watson, thank you for caring so much about us dad’s and the relationships we hope to enjoy with our daughters. This challenge was a ‘defining moment’ that I needed and enjoyed executing. 

One more thing. If you haven’t put this challenge into action where you commit to telling your daughter how special she is for 30 days in a row, I’d encourage you to start today and make the next 30 days your own challenge. And if you need encouragement to hang in there through the ups and downs, I’ve got your back. Just do it, Dads!

20/20 Hindsight: One Dad's Honest Reflections Looking Back (Guest Blog)

Michelle Watson

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Due to the vulnerable nature of this guest blog, I’m choosing
to keep the identity of my courageous friend anonymous.
It is with gratitude that I am sharing his honest reflections as a
father whose daughter paid the price for some unwise decisions
he made a few years ago. He described the process of writing
this as “actually therapeutic even though I had to pause a few
times as tears started to take over me,” which makes the gift of
his disclosure all the more valuable. I trust his honesty will lead
you to do the same. ~ Michelle 


Perspective is a funny thing. We often seem to have a more unique and revealing perspective the older we get and after mistakes you wish you could take back.  This is an account of my personal perspective that I wish I would have realized before the heartache myself and my family experienced.

As I was in my bonus room one day getting in a workout recently, I happened to look on our wall where my kid’s K-12 composite school pictures are displayed. I always enjoy looking at them and wish I could turn the clock back to the days of recent tooth fairy visits and self-inflicted haircuts.  

But today was different. 

As I looked at my daughter’s sweet middle-school face, I started to break down. Tears poured down my face as I was reminded of how selfish I was during those impressionable years of hers.  I recall the self-absorbed focus I had on having an affair and telling myself that being happy was what I deserved. I had no clue how my selfishness was going to send me on a journey I’d never wish on any parent---more on that in a moment.  

Once my unfaithful actions were discovered, the decision was made to move out and find an apartment. I continued to justify my selfishness by trying to spin happiness to my kids as they helped me move and decorate my cool (he says sarcastically) one-bedroom residence. Little did I know the damage I was unintentionally doing to my sweet 11-year-old whose world was being shattered in front of my blind eyes. 

As the next couple of years went on, the distance between myself and my daughter (and son) was evident. They saw the broken woman I was responsible for creating in their mom, which led to the indifference they showed me as I continued to live the double life of expressing my wish to reconcile while having my empty words be reflected in my actions.  

As my wife and I tried to put together the pieces of our relationship, it became evident that our daughter was making horrible choices to mask her pain, which included distancing herself from me (not to mention always making sure that everyone knew that her once-labeled hero--me--was a complete asshole) while continuing to head down a path of complete destruction. It was at that point we knew we had to do something---and fast! We made a seemingly unfathomable decision to send her to a boarding school in the middle of nowhere Montana in hopes we could save her from walking out our door and never seeing her again. 

 
The day the transport service drove out of my driveway with our daughter in the backseat was the day I experienced the most pain my heart has ever felt.   Unable to talk and barely breathe as I laid lifeless on her bedroom floor, I was overtaken by a heart-wrenching sob that was uncontrollable.  I could only wonder how our lives ended up in this place.

The day the transport service drove out of my driveway with our daughter in the backseat was the day I experienced the most pain my heart has ever felt.
Unable to talk and barely breathe as I laid lifeless on her bedroom floor, I was overtaken by a heart-wrenching sob that was uncontrollable. I could only wonder how our lives ended up in this place.

 

Fast forward to today---after years of incredibly hard work by both my wife and I, along with our daughter, I’m beyond thrilled to say we came out on the other end stronger than ever as a family.

Looking back now, I’ll admit that although this was painful process, it was a good drill for me to listen to my daughter without rebuttal as I let her know her feelings were valid. I had to learn to be completely vulnerable without giving her reasons for why it happened and let her tell me what all of this did to her without being defensive. What I discovered is that as I began to let my guard down, I became less concerned about protecting myself and more concerned that she received everything I could possibly give her in her healing process. I committed to be completely at her disposal as she gave it to me from her most raw, open, and critical place. 

As I tie this experience all together, I think back to the day I referred to earlier where I was looking at the school pictures on my bonus room wall. Something came over me as I looked at my daughter’s sweet face where I just started weeping and thinking about what our family experienced.

That’s when I picked up my cell phone and called her. I could barely speak, and she could sense it. She asked what was wrong and I told her I just wanted to call and apologize for the heartache I caused those years ago. In her soft graciousness she said, “Dad, you’ve apologized enough, and I’ve already forgiven you. I love you and our relationship is amazing!” 

I can honestly say there was a day when I thought I’d never hear those words from her again.  

Perspective is a funny thing, indeed. 

If I had the opportunity (and knowledge) to stop my old self from making the mistakes I did, of course, I would---as would most of us. But since I can’t, I can only strive to be my best self, to love those close to me, and continue to trust God with the darkest of situations.

I Don't Speak "Car"

Michelle Watson

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I took my car to a local garage the other day because it had been making a strange squeaking noise when I stepped on the brakes. My first thought was that I needed new shocks, but because I literally have no knowledge of cars, I took it to an expert so he could listen to the noise and diagnose the problem.

Truthfully, I hate dealing with car problems. It’s not exactly my area of expertise so I always feel a bit out of my element with things like this. Yet that’s why I give myself bonus points for courageously stepping up to the plate despite my discomfort.

So on this particular day as I walked into the garage, I sought to describe the unusual noise to the shop owner. However, he didn’t seem to understand what I was trying to explain so he suggested that we drive around the block where we could both listen for the problematic sound. I was confident that I’d be validated for what I’d been hearing.

But to no avail (which seems to be the way it goes, right?!).

It was then that the guy strongly (and in a way that I felt was more bold than the conversation merited) communicated to me that he couldn’t help me unless I gave him more specific information at a later date to let him know exactly what I was hearing.

I assure you that I fully comprehended his need for more specific data in order to identify the problem, but that wasn’t really the hardest part for me. It was that he talked down to me with a belittling and demeaning tone, making me feel like I was an idiot for not knowing how to exactly explain my dilemma to him.

Can I be honest and say that this is one of the things that sometimes doesn’t make sense to me about men. I am authentically and respectfully asking if you could shed some light on this for me. I don’t quite understand why there seems to be a need to talk louder and stronger in order to make a point when the person being talked to clearly isn’t tracking with the content.

As I discovered with this guy (the one whose bedside manner was obviously better suited to inanimate objects than humans), he seemed to enjoy powerfully communicating his position while implying that if I didn’t speak “car” then I needn’t return until I had mastered this foreign language since that’s all that he spoke.

The reality is that I love learning new things. In fact, I feel empowered when I walk into areas of incompetence because I’m presented with an opportunity to grow as a result of facing my fears while expanding my knowledge base. And I am enthusiastically willing to learn something new if someone will take the time to explain things to me…with kindness and respect.

The problem I had during this interaction was that he displayed neither of these qualities. And I really didn’t have any other words in my vocabulary to describe the noise other than what I told him. I wasn’t trying to be difficult or sound stupid. I gave him the best explanation I had.

But to him it wasn’t good enough.

He told me that if I came back, two things needed to happen:

1. I had to be way more specific with a better way of letting him know what the problem was, or...
2. It would need to get a lot worse before I actually had a legitimate problem.

I couldn’t quite determine in that moment whether I felt more disrespected, shamed, or angry. And though I feared that I would incite his wrath if I asked any other inane questions or didn’t say things in a way that he respected or understood (since he was clearly escalating in intensity), I decided that I simply had to speak up. I was literally coaching myself, giving myself a pep talk, because I knew that if I didn’t say something, I would disrespect myself.

So I mustered up my courage, looked at him square in his eyes, and met his intensity with these words:

 

I’m not an idiot. I just don’t speak car! As a matter of fact, I have letters after my name, letters which would prove to some that I am not stupid and that I can actually describe complex scenarios in my respective field. We just have different areas of expertise. I did explain this to you the best I could. You and I just speak different languages and I gave you what I have.”

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But I wasn’t finished.

I continued by telling him about the Mars/Venus thing and chose to assert myself even though I was in his world where he held the power. Despite feeling a bit bullied, I didn’t want to leave knowing I hadn’t used my voice. So despite lacking confidence while I spoke, I was happy that he backed down a little bit once I told him that “car” wasn’t my native tongue. It was then that the thought occurred to me that he was treating me with less dignity and honor than the brakes he installs on VW’s.

Dads, I share this story to remind you that, like me, your daughters don’t speak “car.”

It’s important to remember that she has knowledge about things that you don’t, and vice versa. Don’t put her down for not pacing with you fast enough or failing to track with topics that aren’t her forte. If you want to understand what she is saying then you’ll have to come her way (since you’re the adult and as her dad, the leadership role falls to you) because even on the best of days, she might not have any better words than what comes out of her mouth to explain to you what’s squeaking, creaking, or breaking inside her.

Give her the benefit of the doubt that she’s doing the best she can to explain, in her own words, the complexity of her world.

If you let kindness, patience, and gentleness be your guide, they will go a long way towards letting her know that you value, respect, and honor her. And the way you treat her will not only set the foundation for how she respects herself, but it will serve as a model for the way she interacts with others and expects to be treated in return.

After all, when you really think about it, it’s less about getting the car fixed and more about the journey that you take together in the process of getting it fixed, don’t you think?

So why not make it your goal today to take a step toward learning to speak your daughter’s native language (in her own unique dialect). Once you’ve done that, she’ll be more open to learning to speak “car” with you as her teacher. I’d call that a win-win, wouldn’t you?